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Russia Helps Iran Fuel Up First Nuclear Power Plant

Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi (L) and head of the Russian nuclear agency Sergei Kiriyenko hold a joint press conference following a ceremony initiating the transfer of Russia-supplied fuel to the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 21 Aug

Russian and Iranian engineers have begun loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant. The plant is located in the southern city of Bushehr and both Russian and Iranian leaders insist Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes though many in the international community are suspicious.

In an irreversible step, Iran and Russia began putting nuclear fuel into the reactor of Tehran's first atomic power station. On Saturday, specialists from both countries loaded uranium packed fuel rods into the reactor. Russia helped build the facility.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the director of Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, is in Bushehr to show Russian support for the opening of the plant amid international fears that Iran will use the facility to make nuclear weapons. A charge both Tehran and the Kremlin vehemently deny.

Watch Footage of the Launch of the New Iranian Nuclear Plant

Kiriyenko says in Russia's opinion, it's important to work within the framework of international law and arrive at peaceful results. He says Russia has always stuck to its promises, both regarding bilateral relations and its assistance in the Bushehr project.

Earlier this year, Washington criticized Russia for going ahead with the planned opening of the plant amid global disagreement and concern over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

Moscow did however back a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran, which called for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.

And, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Russia's deal with Iran over fuel should ease Western fears that Tehran is making nuclear weapons. Under the pact, Russia will supply the fuel for Bushehr and then take back the spent fuel rods.

Officials say it will take about two to three months for the plant to start producing electricity once all of the fuel rods have been moved into the reactor. Iranian officials say the production capacity of the plant will initially be 500 megawatts but will eventually increase to 1,000 megawatts.